Rosicrucian Writings Online
The Thought of the MonthBy The Imperator
[H. Spencer Lewis]
[From The Rosicrucian Digest May 1930]
RECENTLY, we were all saddened by the departure from our midst of the character and personality of one who was held in high esteem by not only his companion citizens of this country, but by real citizens the world over. This great man, who had held the highest office afforded by the government of this country and had held many other important positions, was loved by men and women who recognized his admirable qualities long before he was in the limelight of governmental position.
I was acquainted with this wonderful character and knew of his sterling qualities when he was admired and loved by those who were students under him while he was a professor of law in the university. My most intimate talk with him was during an hour's ride on a boat in the East River when we stood together at the railing on the deck and looked out over the water and discussed some of the higher things of life. I wish that I had the privilege, at this time, of telling all that I might about the inner personal life of this man. Many of our members throughout the Order will probably recall what I have said of him in the past, and they will, no doubt, read between the lines on this page and discern that which may not be said just now.
This much, however, is known of his personal, inner self. He was essentially a mystic in every thought and in every act. This point we discussed while on the boat. We were on the way to visit the late Theodore Roosevelt at his home on Long Island. He too was interested in the subjects in which we, you and I, are interested. I remember hearing Mr. Taft say to me that he presumed that he would some day be severely criticized for his rather broad and unique viewpoint of the higher things of life, and especially of religious and spiritual principles, much like Thomas Jefferson had been criticized in his day. I cannot help recalling at this time how very much alike Jefferson and Taft were in the high ideals they held and the unusual attitude they took toward religious matters. In the case of Mr. Taft, he found many thousands holding similar ideas and thus enjoyed a wide companionship in his religious worship. In fact, he found this companionship rapidly increasing in numbers during the last few years. With Mr. Jefferson, however, the case was quite different and he was lonely for such companionship except as he found it among a few who constituted the early Rosicrucian body with its headquarters in or near Philadelphia.
Mr. Jefferson has been very generally classified as an atheist and there are many books and historical writings extant today which quite definitely classify Mr. Jefferson as a disbeliever, and this opinion has become thoroughly established in the minds of those who are not broad enough to investigate and determine the real facts. Yet, I can turn to books here in my library containing the official messages and papers of the presidents of the United States and find that Thomas Jefferson, as President of the United States and as an individual, was neither an atheist nor a disbeliever. He was an original thinker, undoubtedly. He was not given to the use of pet phrases and terms and formulas. If he disbelieved anything very strongly, it was this: that it was necessary for anyone to prove or manifest his religious convictions by the use of orthodox phrases. Yet this very belief, or rather, disbelief, was responsible for the charge made against him that he was not a godly man. To him, the thought of a personal God, almost a duplicate of man, was not only inconsistent but impossible to accept. Therefore, he refused to adopt the general theological idea of God and likewise refused to use the standard theological phrases in his official writings and speeches. But he did use in place of this term such words as Providence, Divine Mind, Omnipotent Intelligence, and other similar terms. Certainly, the use of such phrases excludes the idea that he had no belief in the existence of a Supreme Architect, Supreme Ruler, or Supreme Intelligence, governing and directing the affairs of all beings. In his official reply to his notification of election to the presidency, dated February 20, 1801, we find a typical example of his religious phraseology in the following sentence: "But whatsoever of understanding, whatsoever of diligence, whatsoever of justice or of affectionate concern for the happiness of man it has pleased Providence to place within the compass of my faculties shall be called forth for the discharge of the duties confided to me." He, himself, gave the very best explanation of his attitude in these matters when in his first inaugural address, on March 4, 1801, he explained that since America had been founded for the purpose of giving everyone religious liberty and a freedom from religious intolerance, we should not permit political intolerance or any other form of intolerance to become the cause for further wars. Then he expressed this jewel of a thought: "But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle."
Mr. Jefferson had original ideas and an original interpretation regarding the passages in the Holy Bible, and there were sufficient persons interested in his viewpoint to warrant him in writing his version of the Bible and having it published. We regret that copies of the Jefferson Bible are not available at the present time. But to those of us who have seen this great work by this man, there is no question left about his absolute conviction of the existence of a Supreme Being. His difference of opinion in regard to that Being and of other religious principles did not constitute a difference in principle. Yet he was considered an atheist by the intolerant orthodox persons of his day and is still so considered by the same class of persons.
With Mr. Taft, the case is slightly different, inasmuch as his differences of opinion centered not around the terminology that should be used in attempting to describe the person or character, nature or attributes of God, but around the sectarian doctrines and creeds of denominationalism. Yet this is sufficient even in these days to bring upon the head of any man or woman the condemnation of Christian bodies and to label such a person as a disbeliever.
Both Jefferson and Taft found in the broader mystical principles of religion an attunement with the human side of all beings as well as with the spiritual side. Both of them believed that the Divine rights of men and women were to live and be happy in accordance with their individual right. Both of them believed that a smile and a kind word had more power to save than a stereotyped religious formula. Both of them became living examples of right thinking and right living, and both of them have left monuments of character and personality that will not only remain for hundreds of years but will keep their memories ever green in the hearts as well as the minds of the masses.
Mr. Taft's last days were typical of those anticipated by all mystics and all persons who have lived according to certain laws and principles that bring Peace Profound. He knew that his days and even his hours were numbered. He knew that transition was not only an inevitable law of the Divine Scheme of things, but close at hand in his own life. Yet, he was able to move about or to rest peacefully without pain or suffering, and, without regret or sorrow, await the coming of the great change anticipated in the newer life which, he realized, lay just across the borderline. In our Rosicrucian teachings, we hold that any modern or ancient doctrine that attempts to claim that by proper living and proper thinking transition or so-called death can be avoided is false and unfounded. We teach that transition is inevitable and in fact a joy and a blessing. However, we also teach that by proper living and proper thinking, we may attain that ultimate and highly desirable condition where we may remain free from disease, pain, and suffering and pass to the ultimate change in peace. It is notable in the case of both Jefferson and Taft, that there was a complete absence of the fear of death. Only the mystic who knows what death or transition really is can have this peace of mind and be free from this fear. Modern sectarian teachings do not tend to free man from the fear of an unknown change that leads him into an unknown existence for an unknown time.
To many millions, Mr. Taft is gone and will not be known again until the ultimate Judgment Day when, despite his strange beliefs, he will face the Supreme Ruler of the universe and be judged. To many thousands of others, Mr. Taft still lives, and the character and personality that was evolving here for the recent period of experience will live again and again and continue to evolve to the highest degree of human perfection. In the light of this fact, Mr. Taft was able to face the great change with calmness and expectancy and the world was taught a great lesson by the experiences he passed through in the latter days of his last incarnation here and by noting with what tranquillity he and his family awaited the inevitable event. When one knows that he has tried to do the best that is possible and has benefitted by each experience and lesson, and that the future is not to be cut short and the inner self plunged into prolonged oblivion, then one can face the great event of transition with joy and with sublime understanding. This constitutes the ideal peace that should rest in the heart and on the mind of every being on earth.
Webmaster's Note: "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth" (the Jefferson Bible) may be downloaded here (external link).
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